Well, it's that time of year again, when everyone is starting back to school. We've actually been doing school since the beginning of July. In PA our school year runs July 1st to June 30th, so I can start anytime. This year I made the decision to start earlier for two reasons. First, we are having a baby sometimes around the end of the year, and I wanted to have as much of our 180 days/900 hours in as possible, so that we have the flexibility to relax the pace afterward. Second, I have figured out that the kids do so much better on a routine, and I like the idea of year round schooling and taking longer breaks here and there instead of one seriously long summer break, and very few short breaks during the normal school year.
I also decided to give something else new a try this year. Alot of homeschoolers I've met do some year planning. Now, I've not done that for two reasons. First, as previously mentioned, I am kinda OCD about the planning. When I have it written down, I feel like I have to do it. A huge bonus to the homeschooling is the flexibility, and so that is a problem for me, to not be able to tell myself that we won't get there, or to ease up, to depart from the plan. Second, flexibility is great, I want to move at the kid's pace, and how in the world do I know what their pace will be ahead of time? Anyway, my friend Elyse, wrote a post for Home and School Mosaics that really got me thinking, maybe I should try that out.
So back in the Spring before last school year was even finished I sat down and did some tentative scheduling. I wasn't completely sure where we would end the year at that point, and I didn't want to box myself in with feeling like I had to be at a certain point at a certain time. SO, started by thinking about what my goals would be for the upcoming year. It was good to rough something out on paper, before I typed up those official looking objectives. Then, I looked at each month, and filled in what I knew I would be doing, co-op dates, big trips like Ag Progress Days, and penciling notes when we might try to take trips home next year. Then I told myself based on that, and a four day week, how many math lessons can I cover each month. After that I took my language arts, and did the same, except it was a little easier, since the teacher book, gives a guess at about how many days you'll spend on each lesson. After that I filled in some science around that. I knew I wouldn't get to Grassland Biomes before we ended the school year, so that I put down for July and August, then a short weather unit for August and September. I knew I wanted to spend alot of time talking about the parts/systems of the body, since they have been begging to do a unit on that for the last two years. So I put that down for Jan-May. That left me some time in the fall with no science, so I decided we would introduce some history then. That will about line up when we as a Church are reading through Genesis, Exodus, and Hebrews, so I thought we'd start with nomadic peoples and talking about two early civilizations, the Sumerians and the Egyptians.
At the beginning of each month, I have taken our schedule, which of course is much more roughed out than it was in the Spring, and filled in things like doctors appointments, and library days. Those days are lighter school days, or days off, and then I schedule our school work to be a little more intensive the other days. So far this has worked beautifully. The only changes I've had to make, where some experiments for grasslands that we were going to do, involving winter rye and some other things, that Gary could get at work for us. The other thing I've done a little differently this year with the lesson plans, is to use Frixion pens. I can color code for the kids, and they are erasable, so even if I do need to make changes, everything stays neat. We are accomplishing more, with less stress, and are even a little ahead of where I forecasted.
As for our curriculum. I am again using Math U See. Britt is still working through his Alpha book, he should finish sometime this winter. Depending on how much extra time we take off to work on money and telling time. He really has a knack for math. Some days he tells me he doesn't like math, but I think what he doesn't like is writing. It has been amazing to me this year, that 90% of the time, if I asking his addition facts aloud, he will stop think, and get them right. He's not speedy yet, and doesn't have them memorized, but he does the work in his head. He misses alot on paper though, and still has issues with writing his numbers backwards, and sometimes writing 21 but saying 12. Ruth has just finished primer up this week, and will be starting Alpha like Britt. She struggles a bit at times with math, especially with remembering her teens in order, and things like counting by fives or twos. The primer book, wasn't intended for Mastery though, so she will be revisiting most of those concepts again in this book. She is only just now 5, so we'll see how it goes.
We are also again using Sing, Spell, Read, Write for language arts. They still enjoy it, though I think when Rebecca is ready, I may use a different option for handwriting to try to prevent some issues that we've had with Britt on his letter formation. I held Britt up a bit when he finished the last of the Kindergarten books early in March, because Ruth was so rapidly catching up to him. We are getting ready to start them both together in the 1st grade books. I think it'll be more fun for them, since there are some games, that go with the lessons, and Ruth is so very competitive that it should help her. She still struggles with enunciation at times, but I've told her that just means she has to work harder at it, and she seems to thrive with that reminder. In the mean time, Britt has been working more on sight words, and reading some Dick and Jane books, and other early readers. I think they have both improved in leaps and bounds just over the summer, and can't imagine where they might be by the end of the school year. The kids will continue to blog and write letters as well.
For science I've continued building our unit studies with library books, but this year I also got alot of great books to help build around through Elyse with Usborne books. I can't tell you how much we have enjoyed some of those books. We finished up grasslands in July, and have spent this month on the weather. Of course we've been able to add some fun science field trips already. We've taken several trips to Lake Tobias, which primarily has grassland animals. This week, we made it over to Punxsutawney to the Weather Discovery Center and attended Ag Progress Days. They kids have been to the Ned Smith Center, and we have enjoyed some great time just outdoors in nature.
We are getting ready to get into history. I again have some great Usborne books to serve as core text, I also picked up a used copy of Story of the World at the CHAP convention this year. I plan to supplement with library books for our unit studies once again. I haven't done any looking into field trip opportunities yet, but we also are so unsure where we will be when. I'd like to take a day trip to DC though, and check out some museums, if we can do it for more or less the cost of gas, with a picnic lunch. We of course will continue to try to make trips to Harrisburg and watch the legislative process. That is one bonus of being so close to the state capital.
The fine arts and physical stuff are a little more fuzzy. Britt enjoyed t-ball, and we are hoping the kids can do it together next spring. We were hoping to let Britt start violin lessons (with Elyse, she's just a wealth of knowledge), but that's on hold right now with the job situation. We did swim lessons, but are waiting on the next session for the same reason. Ruth had been asking about dance, and that's another ditto. We continue to incorporate alot of outside time and free play, and Gary has started working with Britt on shooting his bow and arrows. And of course they draw and paint and do crafts. We spend a huge chunk of every Friday at the library, where they do all sorts of programs. It is the best part of living where we do, in the middle of nowhere, we have a library with AMAZING librarians.
This week, we also had our back to Co-op day at (WSCEC), and we will be starting on Thursday, so I took and am sharing our "back to school photos" today. We desperately needed to take last spring off, but are looking forward to getting back together with everyone this fall. Britt and Ruth have different classes the first period - Britt with Boy's Art Zone and Ruth with American Girls. I hope Ruth really enjoys it. I'd like to start reading some of the American Girl books aloud to her. They have second and third period together taking Show and Tell, and Adventures in Science. Rebecca is of course in the nursery room for 2 year olds, and I am coordinating the 3 year olds this year. All and all it's shaping up to be a great school year.